League leader Salvini to face trial as Italy’s Senate revokes his immunity

The floor of the Senate on Thursday voted to authorise putting League leader and Senator Matteo Salvini on trial in relation to the Open Arms case, ANSA reported.  

 

Salvini is accused of allegedly 'kidnapping' migrants on the Open Arms rescue ship when he was interior minister last year. The authorization to proceed with the case was approved with 149 votes in favour and 141 against.

Salvini, a senator, now looks set for a potentially career-derailing case on charges that could see him serve up to 15 years in jail if convicted.

"I am proud to have defended Italy. I would do it again and I will do it again, also because just this July the arrivals are six times those seen in the same period a year ago, with the League party in government," a defiant Salvini told the Senate after the vote.

The head of the anti-immigrant League party is already set to stand trial in a separate but similar case. He was accused of blocking migrants from disembarking from the Italian "Gregoretti" coastguard boat last July. In February, the Senate voted to strip him of his parliamentary immunity in that case. The preliminary hearing has been postponed three times due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is now scheduled to take place in Sicily on 3 October.

Political analyst Franco Pavoncello told AFP the Senate's go-ahead on the Open Arms trial would "certainly have an impact on Salvini", whose popularity has dropped since the coronavirus pandemic swept through Italy. Salvini, 47, says Italy's more than two-month lockdown hit him and his party hard, as he had to put an end to his frequent rallies up and down the country and his famous beachside selfie sessions. A Demopolis poll this week found that the League has dropped more than 11 percentage points in a year, from holding 37% of voting intentions to 25.4% today.

 

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